The Navarro Lab studies microbial trophic interactions in ecosystems ranging from the digestive tracts of insects to the soil rhizosphere.

The laboratory is located at Northern Arizona University and is part of the Department of Biological Sciences and the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society (Ecoss-NAU).

Our research focuses on the complexity of the host-associated and environmental microbiome, including viruses, bacteria, archaea, fungi, and protists. Our research studies the composition of microbial communities, their dynamics in a changing environment, and how microbial activity influences nutrient cycling. The complexity of such studies requires chemical analyses, traditional microbiology tools for isolating microbes, and, most importantly, molecular tools such as metabarcoding, metagenomics, and metatranscriptomics. Processing and interpreting the vast amount of data generated by this multi-faceted research requires the use of diverse bioinformatic approaches to identify the associations between environment, microbial associations, and ecosystem functioning.

Our systems of study include the following:

  • The coffee berry borer and its association with a detoxifying microbiome. Here, we analyze the role of the insect’s microbiome in the degradation of toxic alkaloids such as caffeine.
  • The rhizosphere of different plants and the microbial multitrophic associations mediating nutrient cycling and C flow.
  • The effect of soil retrogression on soil microbial biodiversity (from bacteria to protists) in the Jughandle Chronosequence in Mendocino, California.
  • The passalid beetle and its compartmentalized digestive tract. In this insect, we study the microbial compartmentalization of function for lignocellulose degradation.

Besides the group’s scientific work, the team is also committed to reducing the barriers in research for underrepresented students, including people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals.